Guyana indebted to Caricom for efforts at ensuring will of the people upheld – GAWU
As the 47th anniversary since the establishment of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) nears, the recent efforts of regional leaders to resolve the impasse in Guyana’s protracted electoral process has been lauded.
In its message for Monday’s Caricom Day observation, the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) said Guyanese must recognise the efforts of Caricom in seeking to ensure the will of the people is respected and upheld.
“Their support in providing a team to scrutinise the National Recount especially given the circumstances of our world at this time makes us even more indebted to the Community. We also hail the forthright expressions of the Community’s leaders who undoubtedly are concerned about the well-being of the people of our dear land. We of the GAWU, like thousands of Guyanese, are most appreciative of the efforts of Caricom at this time,” the Union said.
Caricom has been playing an integral role in Guyana’s prolonged electoral process. In fact, former Chair, Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley had led a high-level delegation of four other Caricom Heads of State back in March to discuss the impasse.
At the time, caretaker President David Granger and Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo had agreed to a National Recount under the auspices of the then Caricom Chair, who had facilitated a special team of observers to monitor the exercise. But this activity never got underway after APNU/AFC supporter, Ulita Moore, challenged the recount in the court, forcing the team to depart.
PM Mottley had said at the time, “It is clear that there are forces that do not want to see the votes recounted for whatever reason.”
Subsequently, Caricom agreed to field another team upon the invitation of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to scrutinise the National Recount which ran from May 6 to June 8, 2020.
In its report to GECOM on June 15, the Caricom team said: “nothing we witnessed, warrants a challenge to the inescapable conclusion that the recount results are acceptable and should constitute the basis of the declaration of results of the March 2, 2020 elections.”
Last month, PM Mottley had joined calls for the results from the National Recount, which was certified by the Caricom team, to form the basis for the declaration of the election results.
This was after Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield went against the directions of GECOM Chair, Retired Justice Claudette Singh, to use the recount figures and instead, submitted his final elections report in which he invalidated over 115,000 votes.
PM Mottley had questioned his action, asking “On what grounds and by what form of executive fiat does the Chief Election Officer determine that he should invalidate one vote, far less 115,000 votes?”
The Caricom Chair said that it was regrettable that the Community was now witnessing an unprecedented level of “gamesmanship” that has left much to be desired.
However, her remarks had earned her a barrage of attacks by the caretaker APNU/AFC and its supporters.
Despite previously deeming Caricom as the most “legitimate interlocutor” in Guyana’s electoral process, the APNU/AFC issued a statement, which was subsequently withdrawn, saying “We believe that Prime Minister Mottley’s statement is both ill-informed and ill-advised… We view the Hon Prime Minister’s statement as not only untimely but, in fact, as interference in a matter on which the Constitution of Guyana is clear.”
In response, however, PM Mottley posited that the Community should never avoid upholding its shared principles.
“The truth hurts. But what we must never do in Caricom is avoid the truth and avoid our principles,” she said briefly at a subsequent press conference.
Adding to this, the former Caricom Chair on Friday said that it is “regrettable” that on July 3 – more than four months after the General and Regional Elections were held in Guyana – a credible winner has still not been declared.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Mottley’s firm stance on ensuring Guyana’s democracy is preserved was defended by her successor, Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr Ralph Gonsalves, who assumed Chairmanship of Caricom on Friday.
“Her helpful initiatives [to] assist in the preservation of democracy in Guyana within the terms of the Caricom Charter of Civil Society will be long remembered, despite unwarranted, vulgar and opportunistic criticisms of her from jaundiced sources who ought to know better,” Gonsalves said.
This is not the first time Dr Gonsalves has spoken out about Guyana’s situation.
“Stealing” of an election
During an NBC Radio programme last month, the St Vincentian PM had warned that the regional bloc will not tolerate the “stealing” of an election, nor allow the results from the recount process to be set aside.
“I am satisfied that Caricom will not stand by idly and watch the recount which was properly done for the results to be set aside,” Mr Gonsalves, who was a part of the high-level delegation of regional leaders that visited Guyana back in March, had expressed.
However, he too had come under attacks for his comments. But Prime Ministers Mottley and Gonsalves are not the only regional leaders to come under fire the by the coalition and its supporters for speaking out.
Former Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding, who had led the Organisation of American States (OAS) Election Observation Mission and former Barbadian Prime Minister Owen Arthur, who had led the Commonwealth’s Observation Mission, to monitor Guyana’s March 2020 elections have both been criticised for their statements condemning attempts to rig the elections.
In fact, in his preliminary report to the OAS Permanent Council on May 13, Golding said “I have never seen a more transparent effort to alter the results of an election… it takes an extraordinarily courageous mind to present fictitious numbers when such a sturdy paper trail exists.”
Additionally, the incumbent APNU/AFC and their supporters have also launched attacks on the ABCE (United States, British, Canadian and European Union) diplomatic community here, accusing them of interfering with Guyana’s internal affairs and electoral process.
Guyana is one of the four founding members of the 15-state Caricom with the others being: Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, St Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago, and five Associate Members – Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, and the Turks and Caicos Islands.